Organised crime gang jailed for almost 40 years


Members of an organised crime gang have been jailed for a total of almost 40 years. The 4 young men who are all from the Merseyside area but brought their criminal activity to the streets of Halton were handed sentences ranging from 6 years to 12 years during a hearing at Chester Crown Court on Thursday 19th September.

Brady Cole and Jamie Barnet were the masterminds behind the criminal gang.  Cole, aged 24, was sentenced to 12 years after pleading guilty to a string of offences.  Barnett ,aged 23, was also sentenced to 12 years after pleading guilty to a number of offences.

Dean Kenton 29 and Lewis Gandy 22 were also key members of the gang.  They were sentenced to 6 years each after also pleading guilty to a number of offences.

The Organised Criminal Group, or OCG, ran their criminal enterprise from a first floor flat in West Bank, Widnes.  Between them they bought fear,  intimidation and violence to the streets of Halton and Merseyside over a number of months during early 2013.

On 27 March 2013 a firearms search warrant was executed at the flat in Mersey Road.  The warrant was executed following an ongoing investigation into the OCG and also following concerns raised by the local community regarding activity at the flat.

Armed officers forced their way into the property. The front door to the flat had been reinforced with a steel bar around 3 to 4 foot long and inch thick. The bar was secured to the wall by 4 x 6 inch thick masonry bolts.

Inside the property were the 4 men.  They were subsequently arrested and over the next 2 days, a detailed forensic search was carried out at the flat.

During the search numerous criminal linked items were seized.  This provided detectives with strong evidence that the flat was being used by an OCG for the supply of controlled drugs and storage of a number of powerful weapons and viable ammunition.

The majority of these items were seized from the loft area and included 3 live firearms , a loaded semi-automatic Colt 45 pistol, a fully automatic Skorpian sub machine gun and a pinfire revolver  complete with 117 live rounds of ammunition.  These items were valued at almost £8,000 in total.

The loaded semi-automatic Colt 45 pistol that was seized was examined and forensically linked to a shooting in The Uplands, Runcorn, on the 19th February 2013.

Residents had reported hearing what they thought were gun shots that evening. Extensive forensic examinations of the scene revealed a number of casings and confirmed that at least 6 bullets had been discharged from the weapon.

Fortunately, no injuries were reported. Two bullets had hit an empty parked car belonging to a local resident and others had hit fence panels and tree trunks. 

The loaded Colt 45 pistol was also forensically linked to another shooting in North Road, Halewood, on the 25th March 2013 during the evening rush hour.

The area was full of pedestrians, motorists and cyclists just minutes before the firearm was fired but fortunately noone was injured.  In total 3 discharged bullet casings were recovered from the scene.

Large quantities of Class A drugs were also seized from the flat . These included 48 batches of heroin and 23 batches of crack cocaine - over 700 individual deals - with an estimated street value of £7,100.  A handwritten note believed to be a dealers note was also discovered inside the first floor flat.

Almost £400 in cash was also seized along with numerous mobile phones and sim cards 3 balaclavas and a set of body armour stab/bullet proof vest used by the OCG.

The mobiles were also forensically examined as part of the case and identified significant numbers of messages which related to the purchase,supply and distribution of Heroin, Crack Cocaine and Cannabis -reflecting the fact that this OCG was controlling the drug distribution across Halton. This clearly was a significant drug dealing enterprise.

This sentence brings to an end a complex investigation and successful prosecution by Cheshire Police, Merseyside Police and the Mersey Cheshire Complex Casework Unit of the CPS.

Maria Corr, Senior Crown Prosecutor from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Mersey Cheshire said: " These men were part of an organised crime gang involved in supplying heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine in Merseyside and Cheshire.

"They were prepared to use guns and violence to pursue their criminal trade and used those firearms as they expanded that trade into Cheshire.

"This sentence brings to an end a complex investigation and successful prosecution by Merseyside and Cheshire Police and the Mersey Cheshire Complex Casework Unit of the CPS.

"Gangs,drugs and guns are a blight on our communities and we are committed to working closely with the police to bring these offenders to justice so that people can go about their business in safety.

"These sentences mean that a group of violent and dangerous drug dealers are behind bars for some considerable time and that those firearms are no longer in circulation."

DI Simon Blackwell, from Cheshire Police who led the investigation, said: "This is a significant conviction for Cheshire Police.  Todays sentencing sees 4 members of an organised crime gang behind bars for a substantial period of time.

"This was a lengthy and complex investigation into the criminal activities of a number of individuals who brought fear to the streets of Halton and Merseyside.

"A dedicated team of officers and staff both from Cheshire and Merseyside Police have spent hours securing evidence, searching for witnesses and painstakingly analysing exhibits to ensure that those responsible were brought to justice.

"The discovery of weapons of this kind on this scale within Cheshire is unheard of.  Never before have we seen firearms of this type -or ammunition of this quantity on the streets of the county.

"We hope that the sentences handed down to the defendants will allow them time behind bars to reflect upon their actions - and the implications upon the local community in Halton.

"It is clear that the 4 men believed they were above the law and now they are paying the ultimate price for their criminal activity.

"Cheshire Police is committed to tackling organised crime within Halton. We will not tolerate those who choose to come into Cheshire believing it is an easy target. Be warned as it is only a matter of time before we catch up with you.

"Cross border crime is an issue for every force across the UK and we, like every other force, are committed to strengthening our borders and working with colleagues in neighbouring forces to successfully target organised and travelling criminals.

"In this case, we worked closely alongside Merseyside Police as part of this investigation to build up a full picture of the criminal activities of this OCG and to ensure that this investigation was brought to a successful conclusion.

Chief Superintendent Sarah Boycott, who is in charge of policing in the Halton area, added:  "This case highlights the impact of organised crime on the local community. 

"We hope that the successful conclusion reassures local people that we are committed to tackling this type of crime and ensuring that those who bring their criminal activity to the streets of Halton will end up paying the price for their actions.

"No-one should have to live in fear and misery as a result of the actions of others.

"Residents can rest assured that the efforts of police and partners will continue.  Anyone who has any concerns regarding organised crime, weapons or drugs in Halton or anyone who is concerned about the impact of this type of crime on a family member friend or neighbour is urged to contact Cheshire Police on 101. 

" If you would prefer to leave information anonymously, this can be done via Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111."

Detective Inspector Lee Schofield, from the specialist Merseyside Police Matrix Team, said: "The sentencing of these four men today sends out a strong message to those involved in drug and gun crime.  You cannot bring fear and misery to our streets and expect to get away with it.

"These men probably thought that by committing crimes across force borders would help them to evade detection.  But we work very closely with our neighbouring forces and our joined up approach in relation to this investigation shows that no-one is untouchable.

"This case highlights the dedication and commitment of the officers and support staff in Merseyside and Cheshire who worked together to take firearms and drugs out of the hands of these criminals to protect our local communities..

"Merseyside Police is committed to tackling gun and drug crime and we will act on all information reported to us through Crimestoppers.  Anyone with information about those involved in gun and drug crime can contact the Matrix team on 0151 777 5687, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."